What do I know about Exaltations? I know that the Dragon-Blooded, also called the Terrestrial Exalts, pass their Exaltations along via bloodline, that the bloodlines have become diluted over time to the point that not all children Exalt (how well I know that bit). I know that there are further Exaltations unknown to most of the world. They “belong” to the Unconquered Sun, Luna, and the Five Maidens, though I’ve learned nothing of their creation. Did each god or group of gods create their own Exaltations, or were they created elsewhere and simply attuned to each god in the way that Essence flows may be attuned to a god for a manse? Both Terrestrial and these, let us call them Celestial Exaltations dramatically enhance the wielder’s ability to manipulate Essence in the way that Immaculate Enlightenment seems to, but over a dramatically compressed timescale. The Exaltation does not come with instructions or compulsions on how it is to be used, due to the necessity that the gods could not exercise control over their soldiers, lest the Primordials simply order the gods to order their Exalts to cease fighting.
The Terrestrial Exaltations appear to be aligned with the elements via a connection to the Elemental Dragons, which also provides particular attunement to the magical material, Jade. My own Solar Exaltation does not appear to be elementally attuned, but more focused on empowering my human abilities to a degree far above that any human should be able to achieve. As the Dragon-blooded have a special attunement to Jade, I appear to have a special attunement to Orichalcum. Neither the Dragon-bloods nor I and my fellow Solar Exalted have demonstrated any facility at shapeshifting, which indicates that this is likely the purview of the Lunar Exalted, like Copper Hound. That would be in keeping with the legendry of the mercurial Luna. I have no evidence yet, but an attunement to Moonsilver seems probable. I have precious little evidence of the capabilities of the Sidereal Exalted, though their proximity to heaven supports the hypothesis that they are likely attuned to starmetal.
What do I not know? I’d be here for years, but some areas of ignorance are more pressing concerns than others. The evidence indicates that Suto shares several abilities with Kado: impersonation, a superhuman skill at archery. But Unfettered Horizon speaks of her and Suto as serving the same “master,” and I don’t think she means the Unconquered Sun, who provides precious little guidance. I can conceive of three forces potentially capable of commanding a Solar Exalt and a Dragon-blood to do its bidding: the Gods, the Deathlords, and the Yozis. A god is plausible – they’re not all indolent, but they’re also not subtle. Servants who work an agenda that does not obviously result in greater worship would be a strange game indeed. The dead are worth investigating. Soulsteel is, at present, a magical material without an Exalt attuned to it, which is a gap in a system that, in my experience, despises gaps. On the other hand, it is also not a naturally occurring magical material, so I may be overthinking that. On the other other hand, the Exaltation binds itself to a soul – can you Exalt a ghost? Would you Exalt a living being to then use Necrotic Essence? How? What would that even do to the person?
The third option would be the Yozis, or at least the most powerful of demons. According to Elephant Speaker, the Primordials first fashioned Creation, but the Exaltations were created specifically to upgrade humans to fight the Primordials, so for them to have their own flavor of Exalt would be strange. Demons, however, have their own harmonic of Essence flow (Query for later: do they have a magical material? Something native to Malfeas?). There shouldn’t be an Infernal Exalted sui generis. But if Essence flows can be changed to fit different environments, such as in the way that the living cannot restore essence in a Necrotic Environment and Ghosts work vice versa, then it follows logically that something designed to improve and enhance the manipulation of essence, such as an Exaltation, could be “harmonized” with any Essence flow, to include infernal. The Fivefold Harmonic Converter is evidence that Essence flows can be adapted, and if the demons have one thing in abundance, it’s time. The implications of this line of thinking are disturbing, to say the least. If a demon could corrupt an Exaltation, such a creature would be immensely powerful at “birth” and unbound by the traditional limitations of Hell. Even worse, Solar and Lunar Exaltations have some sort of ill-defined (in that no one has defined it for me yet) bond. If a Lunar or Solar Exaltation was altered, what would that do to the bond?
What do I need to know? How do Exaltations work? Can they be severed from the host without killing the host? What degree of awareness or control do the patrons of Exaltations actually have (“Free will” has a lot of wiggle room)? What would I like to know? Where do they come from? How were they made?
And I am now out of high theory to cogitate upon and I must turn to more personal questions of power.
When I Exalted, I became aware that the stations of sorcerous initiation are embedded in Creation, meaning that I could potentially pursue more powerful magic than I now have without the benefit of a tutor, although a tutor would no doubt be helpful. As I review the process of initiation, however, I am confronted with the station of sacrifice and what it might entail. I had unwittingly sacrificed my place in Lookshy society, and perhaps my family, as part of my initiation that culminated in my Exaltation. Sorcerous sacrifice is always something dear to the sorcerer, as magic demands a great degree of commitment. Old texts make clear that there are spells beyond the capacity of any modern sorcerer, a fact which leads to the conclusion that there would be some greater initiation in order to access them. But what would I sacrifice to access such magic?
The list of things that are dear to me is rather depressingly short: My circle, the people who work for me, knowledge, a few sentimental attachments. The sentimental things I could hardly sacrifice, and knowledge would be contradictory in an educational paradigm. My fellow Exalted? Am I ashamed to admit that “dear” may be too strong a term? We are bound almost solely by our mutual culpability in being a class of being that is considered a monster by most of humanity. We agree on almost nothing and our goals only overlap in the very broadest terms. In truth, there are only two things dear to me that I could envision sacrificing and those are the organization I have built and the man who swore to defend my life with his.
It’s not much to look at. A large compound, a well-outfitted workshop, some 100 men and women. There are larger craftworks and wealthier scavenger lords (though not many, if I am honest). The company has grown rapidly in the last year, and I no longer know everyone by name, but I like to think that I would rise to their defense as rapidly as I did for Mai. The idea of sacrificing them, even if it were just severing my connection to them, in exchange for magical power, strikes me as the sort of trade the others would make without hesitation, but I find difficult to justify.
For what is it, if not trading one sort of power for another? I have seen a spell that would allow me to raise a manse overnight, but my people and I could direct the creation of multiple manses at this point, and enrich hundreds of laborers in the offing, if I am just willing to wait. There are, no doubt, spells to summon and banish higher orders of demons, but my wealth and power now could help build a world where the nihilistic cynicism that is susceptible to demonic corruption has difficulty finding purchase in the first place. Sorcery promises me the ability to reshape creation, but don’t I already have that?
And all of that presumes that the sacrifice is not of a more visceral nature. What if I am called upon to destroy what I have made? Could I even bring myself to do it? On the other hand, there is the very real possibility that mortals, or even Dragon-bloods, cannot learn magic this powerful.
Many of the things I have made in my life I have given away. Some were because that was my job – someone else paid for them and they dictated where my work went. Some were because I had the means and I saw a need. I have the power to make the lives of others better in indirect ways. Powerful sorcery would be more of the same, really, just a different sort of power and a different sort of change. Which is more of what I am? Which is more of who I want to be?
At some point, the Incarnae decided that it would be a good idea for the Exalted to rule the world. I am not certain that I agree. But if I am to be a being who stands between Creation and its enemies, I must, it seems, determine for myself how that will work.